What was your best moment as a doctor?

What Was Your Best Moment as a Doctor?

What was your best moment as a doctor?

Every doctor has moments that define their career, instances where their training, intuition, and compassion converge to make a profound difference in a patient’s life. One such moment stands out vividly in my memory.

An 83-year-old man, Mr. Redding, and his wife entered my consultation room. Mrs. Redding explained that her husband often got up at night to pee — sometimes five or six times in a single night — and she was concerned that his prostate might need a check-up.

After interviewing the patient, performing a digital rectal exam, and conducting further medical investigations, including blood tests to determine his PSA levels, it became clear that Mr. Redding’s prostate was in excellent condition. This left his wife surprised, as he often needed to urinate “with less-than-ten-minute intervals,” both night and day.

I pondered the situation deeply and decided to change tactics, giving it one last, but very different shot:

“Mister Redding, can you tell me what day it is?”

His wife looked confused and utterly perplexed. Mr. Redding confidently replied, “Why, it is Monday, doctor!” But it was actually Thursday.

Next, I handed him a piece of paper and a pencil, asking him to draw a clock, put in all the numbers, and set the hands at ten after eleven. He simply could not do it.

My eyes met Mrs. Redding’s, and I could see the question she was struggling to ask. So, I addressed her directly.

“Mrs. Redding, your husband does not have prostate cancer — which is good news. But most probably he has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a while.”

Of course, this diagnosis needed verification by a neurologist, but the case was almost crystal clear. This explained his chaotic urination patterns — he simply forgot that he had already peed.

Mrs. Redding, initially perplexed, soon began to relax. In hindsight, she admitted that this made a lot of sense and explained many small changes in his daily behavior, which now seemed like symptoms. More than anything, she appeared relieved.

Because in that moment, we had solved more than twenty questions at once. And it wasn’t cancer after all.

This encounter reminded me that being a doctor is not just about treating physical ailments; it’s about understanding the whole patient and their life context. Sometimes, a problem thought to be medical can have roots in another realm entirely. This experience reinforced the importance of holistic care and the profound impact it can have on patients and their families. It remains one of my best moments as a doctor, not just because we avoided a misdiagnosis but because we uncovered the real issue and provided clarity and relief to a worried family.

For more information on the importance of holistic care in medical practice, see this Mayo Clinic article. Additionally, understanding Alzheimer’s and its symptoms can be crucial for early diagnosis, as detailed in this Alzheimer’s Association resource.

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